Somaliland gets Formal Recognition, but not from a Government, from a Business
I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten into debates with people about muh gubmints when, at some point, the person will tell me to move to one of two places, Somalia or North Korea. These two places seem to be the go-to response for people when confronted by someone who might challenge their preconceptions of the nation-state I live in, America.
North Korea and Somalia are two extremely polar symbols of ‘the state.’ On one hand, North Korea has become the common symbol of the totally controlling state. People offer that extreme as a way to say, well, hey, if you think it’s bad here, at least we’re not North Korea. Unless something changes in North Korea, I’m not inclined to be interested to move to a land where state control is actually more total than what I am experiencing right here in America land.
On the other hand, Somalia has become the symbol of anarchy. Somalia is what happens when there’s no government, no state.
Well, in actuality, Somalia is not what happens when there’s no government, no state. Somalia is what happens when there is first a singularly corrupt government, then there are multiple competing corrupt governments. But the competition for control of Somalia isn’t the full story of what’s going on in Somalia right now.
No, I’m not going to give you a detailed report on all of the things happening in the region called Somalia. Instead, I’m going to focus on a small part of Somalia, a part of Somalia that will have people second-guessing themselves when they tell people to move to Somalia. It might also get the ones being told to move to Somalia to respond, “well, ok, sounds great.”
The northern region of Somalia has long ago emerged from the warlord battles still raging in the south. What has emerged there is the creation of an entity called “Somaliland.” The region has a governance model that follows what is called the Xeer system.
The heart of the Xeer system is this, it does not rely on the creation or perpetuation of state institutions to exist. It is not a system that offers punishments such as confinements but rather is based on property rights. It is not punitive, but rather it is compensatory. If you violate the property rights of others, you will have to pay a fine. You don’t pay that fine to some institution, you pay it directly to the offended party.
Like Common Law, the Xeer System is not based so much on written law with specific fines assigned according to the offense, but rather, it is based on the uniqueness of the situation set against underlying guiding principles. The Xeer system has been part of Somali culture for centuries, but its traditions are most strong in the North (though still thriving in the south).
Somaliland is sometimes referred to as a separatist state, even though, in fact, its not a state the way you might think of a state. It didn’t come about through some political process. There was no revolution or civil war where a strongman was put in power. Somaliland is simply the area where there is no civil war, no roving war chiefs. It is a kinship society where family connections are the dominant forms of association and accountability.
Somaliland formed in May of 1991, right after the collapse of the central government in Somalia, and has existed ever since. Upon formation, the self-declared republic of Somaliland has been seeking formal recognition. That formal recognition has never happened, until now. But the recognition did not come from a state. It didn’t come from the UN. It came from a business entity.
The formal recognition of Somaliland came as a result of a business opportunity. The name of that business is DP World, which is the fourth largest port company in the world. DP world has formally recognized the republic of Somaliland and entered into an economic agreement with the state that is not really a state.
DP World will be building the Berbera Free Zone, which is to follow the successful business model of Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone. The contract covers a time-period of 30 years, during which time DP World will be expected to build infrastructure and develop the zone economically, in exchange for being able to run the Port of Berbera.
With this recognition and this economic agreement, Somaliland is solidifying its separation from the war-torn southern part of Somalia, and setting itself up to potentially enjoy an economic boom that might rival, or at least equal, the economic boom Dubai has experienced.
So, the next time someone says if you like Anarchy so much, why don’t you move to Somalia, you might want to consider saying yes. I hear there’s plenty of opportunities in Somaliland, and a whole heck of a lot less state intrusion on your life.